SCCS officials take three-part approach to planning for next school year

SWARTZ CREEK — Faced with the unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic, a team of local educators is working out a three-pronged plan for getting the 2020-21 school year up and running in August.

About 20 teachers, administrators and support staff comprise the Education 2020 Task Force that is mapping out details for worst-, middle- and best-case scenarios, said Board of Education Secretary Jessica Lanave.

“There is much to consider logistically,” Lanave said.

Administrators were to begin reaching out to parents this week to get feedback and gauge the general level of comfort in the event students are allowed to return to the classroom.

Under the worst-case scenario, school would continue online. Under the best, face-to-face instruction would resume; however, families who remain uncomfortable with large gatherings would have the option of continuing online classes.

In the middle, there’s a hybrid of the other two options. Students would return to the classroom two days per week, with half the students going to school Mondays and Wednesdays, the other half Tuesdays and Thursdays, to shrink class sizes. The remainder of the week’s instruction would take place virtually.

“We don’t know yet what the governor or legislature will require us to do,” said Superintendent Ben Mainnka. “It’s highly possible we will plan and get down the road a month or two and the legislature or governor … could make a decision contrary to what we’re planning and we’d have to adapt. We want to be prepared. We want to be flexible enough to make adjustments on the fly.”

To date, the district has provided Chromebooks to most of the students who do not have access to the necessary technology at home. About 25 percent of students received the devices, Mainka said. Roughly 900 of the district’s Chromebooks are on loan.

In addition, a wi-fi hotspot was made available in the student parking lot of the High School for those families without internet accessibility. Mainka said school officials also have helped families contact internet service providers who are offering free resources during the pandemic.

It’s likely the state will require districts to continue the online format or a hybrid program.

It remains unclear who will have the final say in what the 2020-21 school year will look like. The state legislature has, historically, ruled in matters of education, but the executive office has considerable authority in times of crisis, he said.